Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 Pittsburgh Triathlon (International) By The Numbers

This post has been hanging around in draft for over a month, so I finally decided to finish it and hit publish. It's a little dated, but the data is all valid and I did actually used some of the data in my race plan for Cedar Point.
Here's a by-the-numbers look at my result from the 2013 Pittsburgh, International Distance, Triathlon from earlier this summer. Starting with a correlation analysis of Bike vs Run times.

This chart is interesting to me because it shows that I ran faster than I biked as compared to my peers. Interestingly, this is somewhat of an ongoing theme for me and I'm not sure why.  I'm also not sure exactly what to do as a result of having this knowledge, but I plan to give it some thought and incorporate that thinking into future race planning.

Here's a simple look at my numbers as compared to the averages in my AG. Nothing really special here, I finished "below the average" so I would follow that my individual times would also be near or below average, which they were.

Here is a quick look at my position against the field as compared to the overall, the other men and of course, my AG. Finally the number of people that I passed during the bike and the run.

I always like to look at the "passed while" numbers because it highlights how slow I am in the water! Of course if I was a faster swimmer, then these numbers would not be nearly as large.

Like I said, this post goes in the better late than never category but I'm glad it's finally done.  I'm working on another similar post for Cedar Point where I'll talk more about how I used this data to set that race plan.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rev3 Cedar Point HalfRev Race Report

I'm still pretty new at this game!  Rev3 Cedar Point is only my second 70.3 distance race.

A lot has changed for me in the past year, both physically and mentally. I've rediscovered my inner athlete. I've competed again and pushed myself harder and farther than I thought possible, and in the process, I fulfilled a goal that my 18 year old self considered but wrote off as impossible or at least not worth the investment.

I sit here in my IMTX finishers hat, typing this, realizing that a lot has changed since May too. Life, work, training and motivation have all shuffled around and jockeyed for my precious time. As a result, I went to Cedar Point more prepared than I was for Waterman's last year, but not nearly as strong as I was just a few short months ago. I'm OK with that. The choices where mine, I made them and I both benefited and suffered as a result. One thing I've learned from all of this is that you can't just "stay" in top shape.  You have to plan so that you peak at the right time and for the races that matter most to you.  This is not to say that I'm disappointed with my Cedar Point result - I'm not, my result was awesome - I'm just coming to terms with the fact that staying in IronMan shape is really hard to do.

So on to what you really came to read about, the race and my results!

I love roller coasters, so I was excited about the venue and that influenced the decision to turn this race into a weekend away.  Cath and I took Friday afternoon off and made reservations to stay in the park on Friday and Saturday nights.  Jump to the end if you want to read more about our time in the park.

Saturday morning was all about registration, preperation and gear check-in.  In the prerace meeting we found out that the weather prediction was marginal and that we might be swimming an alternate course but that we would at least get to swim.  Saturday afternoon was more roller coasters! and then a good prerace meal and an early bed time.

Sunday I awoke early to the sound of light rain and raging wind.  Cath and I cleared out of our room and headed over to T1 to drop off my nutrition and confirm where the swim would go off.  Sure enough, we were racing the alternate swim, which was fine except for the half mile jog between the swim exit and T1.  That's OK I thought, just let it go, the change impacts everyone, so if I let it impact me less then I have the advantage...

The alternate swim course was in the marina and it was a time trial start.  The only thing I didn't like was that I did not have any chance to get into the water before the start, so I did some jogging and some sprints instead to warm-up.  Once in the water we swam one lap around an island and then turned sharp right back to the boat launch.  Sighting was all to the left which is tough for me as I can only breath to the right. Fortunately, the island was big enough that I really didn't have any trouble with way finding.

The water was much rougher than any other open water swim that I've done.  I really didn't have any trouble, but I could feel myself rising and falling along with the swells, which was new for me.  I was hoping to swim under 40, but that did not happen.  I still think I can get there, but the conditions will need to be better for that to happen.  Regardless, I took a couple of minutes off of my last HIM swim, which makes me really happy!

Result: 42:09 (Distance PR by 2:17)

As I mentioned above, the alternate swim course resulted in a half mile jog between the swim exit and my bike!  I didn't know where they had the timing mat, so I was unsure if that would show up on my swim or on T1.  You can see from my outrageous time, that the jog was considered part of transition.  I know that everyone had to make the jog, so no worries there, but I'm still disappointed with my time vs. my peers.  Just something else to focus on for next time.

Result: 9:08

I've read a lot about the Cedar Point bike course - it's flat, it's fast and the wind can be a factor.  I agree whole heatedly with all three of those conclusions.  The wind that forced them to move the swim stayed strong all day.  I'm guessing it was 30mph+.  For the most part I did not find it to be a problem until somewhere near mile 30ish.  At that point we were pretty exposed and riding right into the wind.  I thought this was bad, but manageable. Keep your head down, watch your heart rate and don't get too discouraged by how slow you're actually going...  Manageable.

However, at some point, we turned left onto the peninsula and the headwind turned into a 30 mph+ fully exposed crosswind.  Combined with fatigue and bad pavement and the last 5-7 miles of the bike were simply awful.  It took everything I had to keep the bike upright and on a somewhat straight line.  Mentally and physically this was very draining.  I can't imagine how much more difficult this was for the people who chose to ride with a rear disc.

The look on my face tells the whole story.  Yes, it was that bad!

I was thrilled to finally get into the park and get ready for the run.  I'd been watching my splits so I new I was fast, in spite of the wind.  Also, I'd been pushing a much higher heart rate than normal and I was really curious to see if that would impact my run.  Don't worry, that was all part of the plan...

Result: 2:48:47 (distance PR by 12:31, Woot!)

For each of the races I've done, I've put together a run vs bike correlation and the common theme has been that my run is consistently stronger than my bike as compared to my peers.  I have always ended up in the "fast and balanced" quadrant, but below the line on the run side. As a result of this, in my last two races, I've made a point to push myself harder on the bike.  Although I don't want to push to the point of a bad run, I've been willing to push myself pretty hard trying to find a better run/bike mix.

My run plan was to start with 9 minute miles then push to 8:30 and then hopefully end with some at 8:00 or better.  The miles at 9 were no problem and as expected, I had to force myself to stick to that pace. After three miles, I picked up the pace and started running ~8:30.  That worked for miles 4 - 9 with only a little fluctuation, so after mile 9 I tried to pickup the pace and get closer to an 8 minute pace.  Unfortunately, that turned out to be harder than I anticipated.

I dug deep and was able to get under 8:30 for a couple of miles but I just could not hold that pace. Finally with about a mile to go, I really wanted to kick, but that was also the same time the course turned back into the 30mph+ wind!  Needless to say, I got nowhere near 8:30 for that mile.

Finally I got back across the causeway and into the parking lot.  From there it was just a short run around transition and across the finish line!

Over all my run felt pretty good, and it was a big PR.  I'm not sure if I lost any time on the run as a result of my ride, but I still ended up running faster than many of my peers.

Result: 1:53:52 (Distance PR by 12:57)

Overall: 5:35:27 (Distance PR by 23:53)

Yup, almost 24 minutes faster than last time and faster across every sport as well!  I'm super happy about all of it and I know that I can go faster still if I plan and train to my potential.

Thanks to Rev3 for running a great race and making lemon aid out of the weather lemons.  Thanks also to Cath for spending the day Sunday hanging out and cheering me on.  You are the absolute best, babe, and I really love you!


Roller Coasters!
Friday night in the park was amazing.  There were no crowds and thus no lines!  I was able to ride most of the major roller coasters before dinner.  Cath and I both rode the Magnum XL 200. Then I rode the Top Thrill Dragster and the Gatekeeper.  After the GateKeeper, we decided that it was time for dinner so we made our way to Famous Dave's for some ribs.  This was delicious, but a major error in roller coaster planning as I ate ribs until I could eat no more!

The GateKeeper as seen from outside of the main entrance to the park!

The Top Thrill Dragster tower!

After the ribs we headed back into the park to maybe ride some more rides, but we were interrupted by a milkshake stand... and that was then end of the night for roller coasters because I had no desire to hurl my ribs and shake all over the park.

Saturday after check in we waited two hours to ride the millennium force, which was AMAZING. We also rode the mean streak, but neither of us really enjoyed that as it was way to bumpy for us old people.

So the low down on the park is Friday night!  Don't even bother with Saturday. If you get there right as the park opens on Friday, you will have more than enough time to ride everything you want to ride and you will not have to wait in a single line.  AWESOME!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pittsburgh Triathlon 2013 Race Report

This past Sunday was the 2013 version of the Pittsburgh International Triathlon. This race marks my one-year anniversary as a triathlete! As I thought about my race schedule for 2013 this was an important race for me because I wanted to try and quantify my personal growth. I realize that no two races are the same and that there are many environmental factors that limit the value of comparing year over year for the same race, blah blah blah. That said I’m going to do it anyway and since my results were so much better, I’m going to be all like, “I rock” and “I kicked ass”, so you've been warned.

I started my race prep pretty late, but I really didn't have that much to do.  I changed my wheels and brake pads, I removed my back bottle holder and I swapped out my seat bag so that I had the right tools for fixing a tubeless flat since my race wheels are tubeless. Since the ride is only 40K I planned to use only my front water bottle. Also I did not plan to carry any bottles on the run, so that was one less thing to prepare as well.

The other thing I wanted to do pre-race was to practice transition with a “shoes on the bike” setup. This is new for me but since this is a short course race I wanted to be as fast in transition as possible so I figured I would give it a try. I got everything setup and then I made six or eight laps around the block. At the start of each lap I practiced mounting the bike with the shoes on the pedals and then slipping my feet into the shoes while I was moving. No crashes, so that’s a positive, but I kept pushing the tongue of the shoe up into the toe box. Eventually I got that sorted out and I was able to get my feet into the shoes pretty quickly and without veering all over the road. Getting off was much more straight forward. After releasing the ratchet and Velcro straps, I just slipped my foot out and then went back to pedaling with my foot on top of the shoe.

I have to say that I’m not convinced of the overall benefit of this approach, at least for the first half anyway. Leaving my shoes on the bike and dismounting barefoot seems MUCH faster and I expect that I will add this to my normal routine. However leaving T1 barefoot and putting my feet into my shoes on the go seems like I’m just saving time in transition only to lose it back on the bike. I’ll probably take this on a race by race basis moving forward, but who knows. It would be interesting if someone would do some research on this, it would be an easy experiment to setup.

Race day started nice and early as usual.  Get breakfast, load the car, wake Cath up and then head out on the short drive to the race. Since I was pretty early there were no lines for body marking or transition setup, so that went really quickly. My transition setup this year was super minimal, since my helmet and shoes were on my bike, the only thing on my towel was my running shoes and race belt. Compared to my transition neighbor, who had water bottles and gels and an upside down bucket (I guess to sit on?), my stuff looked really lonely… But minimal is fast and fast is good.  This super minimal approach was a direct reaction to my non-minimal and thus aimless and horribly slow transitions in IMTX.

With everything setup, Cath and I headed back to the car to chill out and stay out of the rain. We stayed there until about 6:20 at which point we wandered back to transition and the prerace meeting and the porta-johns.

The first wave went off at 6:45 and I got in the water right after. The swim is an upstream start so everyone was floating and swimming to try and hold their spot in the current. The gun went off (well, actually someone shouted GO) at 6:50 and we were off. About 1/3 of the course is upstream before we take a sharp right turn and swim out into the middle of the river where we make another sharp right turn to start the downstream leg. I felt strong and the visibility was much better than IMTX. I found some feet and tried to keep my head down and my stroke efficient. The turn, turn section of the course is interesting because many people try to swim a straight line across the current from turn to turn, which does not work out very well. From my kayaking days I learned that the fastest way to swim across current like that is to keep yourself pointed upstream into the current, not across it. Using this strategy I was able to swim from marker to marker without getting pushed below the second turn.

The downstream leg felt fast and I tried to keep my intensity up for the entire distance.

The finish is my least favorite part of this swim as it involves a sharp right turn and then an upstream swim to the dock. The switch from downstream back to upstream, at the end of the race always zaps me. Anyway, I made it out of the water and started the longish run to the timing mat and the start of T1.

Final Time – 29:49 which is 2:00 faster than last year!

T1 went super-fast! I put on my helmet, grabbed my bike and ran for the line. This year I did not bother with bike gloves or sun glasses and after I got on the bike, I did not bother moving my Garmin from my wrist to the bike mount. Minimal and quick.

Final Time – 0:59 which is 1:37 faster than last year! Ha, I took 1 minute and 37 seconds off of my time in T1!

The bike was a two lap course where the front half of each lap is mostly uphill and the back half is mostly downhill. I got my feet into my shoes without too much trouble and settled into a comfortable rhythm. For some reason my heart rate was higher than I wanted it to be, so for the first couple of miles I focused on keeping steady and bringing my HR down. The run out of the water to T1 was uphill all the way and I tried to move pretty quickly, so that may explain my elevated HR.

Most of the ride was uneventful. I kept my head down and tried to keep my cadence up and I tried to keep pedaling smoothly on the downhill. My first split was 19:30, which was slower than I wanted but tolerable since it was all uphill. My second split was 11:58, which was much faster than I expected even with it being all downhill. The remaining splits were 17:12, 15:55 and 7:56, which are more in line with my norms.

I finished my bottle before the second aid station, where I took some water. I also ate a gel on each lap just to try and stay topped off. Since I was not going to carry any liquid on the run my plan was to make sure I was well hydrated coming off of the bike and I feel like I succeeded in this.

Local races are interesting for many reasons, but the one thing that stands out from this race is the wide variety of bikes that I passed on the ride. I passed tons of tri and road bikes, but I also passed mountain bikes, hybrid bikes and a commuter with full fenders on the front and rear. The only other thing of note is the guy that sucked my wheel the entire way up the hill on the second lap.

Final Time – 1:12:32 which is 3:55 faster than last year! This is a mixed bag for me. Yes, I was faster than last year, but the improvement was not nearly what I wanted. There are lots of possible explanations for this, the most logical being that the bike was my best event last year and thus would be the hardest to improve.

My barefoot dismount and run into T2 went super smoothly and thus super fast. So fast, in fact, that it actually earned praise from one of the volunteers at the dismount line! He said something like “That’s how you’re supposed to do it, Nice Job!”

The only snag with T2 was that each of my thighs cramped when I lifted my foot up to put on my running shoes! Yikes, that’s not the way I wanted to start the run. Fortunately I was able to get my foot in each shoe on the first try and then straighten my leg back out to relieve the cramp.

Final Time – 1:15 which is 0:34 faster than last year. Not as big of an improvement as T1 but still great.

The run is an out and back on a riverfront trail. There is not much elevation gain or loss and the out/back setup makes pacing pretty easy. My goal was to start strong but sustainable and then build from there once I made the turn - basically to negative split.

The first mile went by fairly quickly at a 7:40 pace which made me happy! The second and third were 7:43 and 7:36, so again, right where I wanted to be. After making the turnaround, I started to pick up the pace. Mile four finished at 7:10 and mile five at 7:08. Just a little over one mile to go and I was feeling tired and sore, but I knew that I would be able to hold on until the finish. I crossed under the bridge and made the last turn towards the finish and my watch beeped 6:49 for mile six. Sweet! I could see the line and three clocks, quick, which one is mine? I guessed that mine was in the middle and that one read 2:29 and change. Hurry, I thought to myself, and you can get there before it rolls over to 2:30!

Final Run Time – 45:15 which is 8:44 faster than last year! Yikes, that almost a minute and a half faster per mile! I’m super stoked about that.

Final Race Time – 2:29:52 which is 16:50 faster than last year! Again, Yikes!

So how do I measure one year of growth in a sport that I've come to love? Well, almost 17 minutes faster is one very real way and another is that I was right back in the water swimming again on Monday night, where last year I had to take a couple of days off to recover.

The Good:
Nearly everything, with special emphasis on T1 and the run.

The Bad:
The lines for the porta-johns and the fact that my coffee didn't do its job until after the race had started… Sorry, over share.

The Ugly:
My poor feet. I rode and ran without socks this year to improve my time in T1 and neither my cycling nor running shoes are well suited for sockless activity – lesson learned.

So that's the story of my first ever repeat race.

Oh, one other note, I spent much of the rest of the day and far, far too late into the night watching the live finisher feed from IronMan Lake Placid. That feed is like triathlon crack, I just can't put it down!


Monday, July 29, 2013

IronMan Live Finishers Video Feed

I watched about three hours of the IMLP live finisher feed yesterday.  I find it highly addicting (and motivating), I just can't put it down. I'm bummed that I missed the one person I really wanted to see cross the line, but I saw so many others with that look of joy and pain and relief and accomplishment - it really is a study in human emotion.

Plus it gives me another chance to share this...

Congratulations to all of the IMLP finishers, way to go out and get it done!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My IMTX By The Numbers

Here is a detailed summary and analysis of my performance in the 2013 IronMan Texas Triathlon.

First, lets look at the numbers by discipline.  Included in the table below is my time for each sport compared with my age group (AG) average time.  By the way, my AG is 45-49. Also included in this table is my AG ranking for each sport.

So what does all of this mean? Well, it confirms the fact that swimming is my weakest event, that's for sure. It also leads me to question if I should rename this blog to drowningrunner, since the run was clearly my strongest discipline for this race! What I find interesting about these numbers is how they relate to my goals and the question "Am I being realistic in my goal setting, specifically for the bike and the run?" I'll write more on this in a bit, so please read on!

Next let's take a look at my position within the field after each sport. This is slightly different than my ranking because it is a cumulative view after each event. The table below includes my position within the field after the swim, swim + bike and swim + bike + run. I also included the number of people that I passed while biking and while running because these numbers made me happy!

Nothing new in there really, just a confirmation that I spend the ride and run making up for my slow swim!

So now on to the relationship between bike and run. the graph below plots bike times on the x axis against run times on the y axis. I also included lines to represent the average bike and run times. Again, this is all specific to my AG.

So the good news here is that I'm clearly in the "fast and balanced" quadrant of the graph, which means that my early bike pacing issues did not negatively impact my run!

The questions that this graph raises for me are about bike pacing and run goal setting. First about bike pacing, I'm wondering if I rode to my potential, and the answer is clearly no. In support of this I present a plot of my heart rate by mileage during the bike. 

My HR plan was 130 - 135 depending on how I felt. So the plot shows a few things: I came out to fast, I settled down and rode to plan for a while, i started to feel nauseous and then my HR fell off of a cliff at mile 94 and I was never able to bring it back up!

In the future I will try to be more consistent on the bike and I will also try to work a little harder!

I don't have heart rate data from the run and I'm really bummed about this. I'm curious what my heart rate was and if I could have pushed harder on the run. I expect that I could have, since I never really hurt during the run, but this is just a gut feeling. Actually, the other bit of data in support of the fact that I could have pushed harder is that I was able to carry on several different conversations during the run and none of them left me winded or gasping for breath. So clearly run intensity is a goal for next time.

My only open questions are about goal setting / pacing for the bike vs. the run. My goals of six hours on the bike and four hours on the run seem to be way out of balance as compared to the remainder of the field. For example, the trend line in the bike vs. run chart above indicates that a six hour ride pairs with a 5:20 run. That same line indicates that a four hour run pairs up with about a five hour ride. Compared to the field, my stretch goal combination was quite unbalanced - just under on the ride, but well under for the run. Moving forward, I need to think about this to see if I can push harder on the bike and maintain similar intensity on the run.

Just a word of warning before you start reading this part of the post. This is written almost entirely for me - sort of a racers diary entry - so that I can come back to it in the future for reference. It's pretty boring stuff, so read on at your own peril unless you're actually trying to fall asleep...

Hydration and Nutrition:

I carried two bottles of Skratch Labs, Secret Drink Mix (SDM) that I mixed at ~6x normal strength. I also had one front bottle with 24 ounces of SDM at normal concentration. Throughout the ride, I took two water bottles at each aid station, which I used to refill my front bottle. I took a few good sips of straight water and then I used the concentrate-bottle to replace what I just drank.   Between the two concentrate-bottles, I was able to carry 192 ounces worth of SDM at normal concentration. Add in the original 24 ounces of SDM from the front bottle and that totals 216 ounces of SDM over the entire ride. In addition, I'm guessing I drank another 40ish ounces of plain water (10 aid stations x 4 oz per refill). Thus my liquid consumption was approximately 256 ounces for the ride. 

As I indicated in my race recap, the sodium balance in SDM works well for me, so I was planning to error on the side of over-hydration not under. 

In addition to the SDM, I ate homeade rice cakes throughout the day. I can only tolerate so many gels, so I try to eat solid food while I'm on the bike. The rice cakes work well for me and they taste good, so that's what I use. I think I ate two cakes, which works out to about 450 calories. SDM is 80 calories per 16 ounce serving, so I drank ~1080 calories. Thus my calorie consumption on the ride was ~1530.

One final note about the ride - my plan for the bike was to eat, drink, pee and repeat, which I accomplished.

For the run I used the same model, two concentrate-bottles, mixed at ~6x strength and a hand bottle at normal strength. I drank the hand bottle while I ran, refilled it with water at each aid-station and then used the concentrate bottles to top off the hand bottle. This allowed me to race entirely on SDM which is what I trained on.

I carried enough concentrate to mix 128 ounces of SDM plus what I had in the 10 ounce hand bottle at the run start. I drank every bit of what I carried. I also drank some coke at nearly every aid station.

In addition to the liquids, I ate two gels over the run course. 

138 ounces of SDM is 690 liquid calories. I'm guessing I drank another 32 ounces of coke over the day, which is 400 calories, plus the 200 calories of gel total 1290 calories on the run.

Combine calories from the bike (1530) and the run (1290) and I figure I consumed ~2820 total calories on the day.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Holy Sh*t, Triathlon is Expensive!

My triathlon habit is crushing my budget!

I'm not sure why I was thinking about this the other day, but I was, so I figured I would turn it into a blog post.

For those of you who don't really know me, I'm a list/spreadsheet type of thinker. There are so many problems that can be organized, broken up into manageable pieces and knocked out with lists and spreadsheets.  Some examples include packing for a race, planning your training calendar and planning your nutrition, etc.

Budgets are but one more example of things that fit nicely into my spreadsheet habit. Below I'll share a few versions of my triathlon budget, but before I do that, it makes sense to talk a little bit about the methodology that went into the spreadsheet I'm going to share.

Some of my triathlon expenses occur monthly, or nearly monthly and thus I've included them in this way. Things like coaching and nutrition fall into this category.

Other expenses are more one-time expenses and then they get amortized across a season. Things like race entry fees and race travel expenses fit into this category. For these expenses, I add them once and then divide that by 12 so that I get a monthly number. This tells me what I need to set aside every month so that I'm sure I will have money available when it's time to sign up for a race or buy a plane ticket.

One really long-term expense is my new tri-bike... Last year I raced on my road bike with a set of clip-on aero bars. It worked for me and it allowed me to decide just how committed I was to the sport long term. However, with my commitment to IMTX, I decided that it was time to invest in a tri specific bike. Since I had not been saving for a tri-bike, I basically took a loan from savings (yes, I'm lucky enough to have some savings) which I'm now paying back (to myself) each month. And yes, it's this kind of compulsive thinking and behavior that explain why I have some savings... Long story short, you will see a tri-bike line item in the table below, along with a monthly number and I wanted you to understand the thought behind the number.

The last category is future expenses or planning! If I could have waited longer to buy my bike, I would have purchased it using theses funds, but of course that did not happen. This category includes items like future bike upgrades. It also includes a "Kona Savings" line item! That way when a Kona spot rolls down to #77 or  when I work my way up to top 5 AG, I can accept my Kona spot knowing that I have already saved money towards the trip.

So, without further adieu, here is my tri budget spreadsheet:

Yikes right!

This budget assumes one race each year, at each distance. This is really all that my schedule will allow and clearly it's all my budget will allow as well. It also accounts for the fact that I have family in Houston and Phoenix and I can drive to Lake Placid and Louisville. If I had to fly to my IM race AND stay in a hotel then my IM travel expenses would be much higher.

Since I don't have this much money to put towards triathlon on a monthly basis, and since I don't want to eliminate any races, I decided to "lie to myself" and pull a few things out. This, of course, is why my savings is not a large as it should be ;-)

In this version, I eliminated my bike payment back into my savings. I also eliminated my gym membership because I had that before I started racing triathlons. In reality, I should probably give myself some sort of credit for this as I'm now ACTUALLY USING MY GYM MEMBERSHIP instead of paying for it month after month and never going to the gym, like before. Finally I eliminated my Kona savings plan as that is a long way off and will require other commitments.

Unfortunately this new number is only slightly less painful than the original, so it's time for another round of cuts. Those cuts result in this version.

This number is much better, but it's still painful and it has real implications for my tri-future.  For this version, I eliminated coaching and upgrade planning. Eliminating coaching probably means that I don't need to worry about the fact that I eliminated Kona savings ;-), but it also means I do need to worry about being slow for the foreseeable future.

Shit, this is even more depressing now that it's in print.

Anyone have a spare lottery ticket I can have? Winners only of course...

Anyone have any cost savings tips that I can put to good use?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Laurel Highlands 50K Relay Race Report

As you may have read in my 50K Trail Relay post, I was able to quickly throw together a three person team and get us entered into the 50K relay group of the Laurel Highlands Ultra. This is something that I've always wanted to do, so I was super excited that it finally worked out!

Saturday morning I met Sherri and Amyjo at the finish line parking lot at 6:00. We left Sherri's car at the finish, since she was running the last leg, then we drove both of the remaining cars to Ohiopyle for the start. The original plan was to shuttle both cars between exchanges during the race, but since Amyjo was planning to end her day back in Ohiopyle with her family, we decided to leave her car there.

Packet pickup went quickly and the t-shirts were pretty nice. We spent the next 10ish minutes wandering around with the rest of the runners waiting until it was time to head off towards the start. 

It was still pretty cold out (low 50s) and it was very damp, so I was debating between long sleeves and short. In the end, I stuck with the long sleeve smartwool shirt that I was already wearing and we started off towards the bathrooms and the starting line. I think the fact that the temperature at IMTX was almost double influenced my clothing choice.  Of course the fact that I was cold was an influence also. 

We snapped a couple of team pictures at the starting line. 

The pre-race briefing was short and to the point and the next thing I knew, they were counting down for the start. Of course I was not paying any attention, so I forgot to start my watch when I crossed the starting line!  Whoops.

I started to regret the choice of long sleeves after about one mile, but it was too late to do anything other than unzip the neck and push up the sleeves as much as I could.

My leg of the race starts out easy and then goes pretty much straight up and down for about seven miles before it finally settles out and is flat or downhill for the last five.  The total climbing is over 3000 feet.  The image below is from a previous trip, where I did not forget to start my watch...

Since I only had a couple of days to think about and prepare for this run I really did not have any kind of detailed plan.  I wanted to push myself, to see what I could do.  I also wanted to finish as quickly as possible because I wanted to leave time for Amyjo to finish her leg under the cutoff time for the Rt. 653 checkpoint.

My best guess was that I would be able to finish somewhere between 2.5 and 3 hours.  I ended up finishing in 2:24 and I'm super happy about that. As the chart below indicates, I pushed myself pretty hard. My average heart rate for the day was 158 and there were several, long periods where I was above 165! In contrast, my average heart rate for the bike section of IMTX was only 131.

I'm pretty happy with the way that my heart rate dropped while I was running the final flat and descent before the last little climb. Of course, I less happy with the way my HR climbed back up as I climbed up the little hill at the very end, but I guess that's to be expected.

Here's a picture of the transition at the end of my run.

Amyjo ran the leg between Jersey Hollow Road and the Route 653 checkpoint. The total climbing on this leg is 1367 feet, according to an old entry in my SportTracks log file.  The elevation profile is below. Recognize that the scale on this is different from the scale on the elevation profile posted above. Regardless, this is a tough 7+ mile stretch of trail!

Amyjo knocked it out and then celebrated (with her eyes closed)!

Sherri ran the final leg, from Route 653 to the finish, in the trail parking lot  just before the Route 31 crossing. Again, I was able to dig out an elevation profile, although this time it came from two previous routes instead of one, so I have two images below.

Again, keep in mind that the scale is different between these two images and also between these and the previous images. The total climb in the first piece of Sherri's run was 1134 feet. My estimate for the second piece is about 500 feet for a total of approximately 1634 feet. I nice tough day for Sherri, probably the hardest 12 miles she's ever run. Not to mention that she took a little detour by mistake and ended up running some extra distance!

Here are two pictures of Sherri at the finish! Go Sherri!

Overall we had a great day. Everyone pushed their limits and everyone was super sore the next few days. Somehow I ended up being more sore after this than I was after IMTX. I'm not sure how that's possible, but that's the way it worked out. Maybe it was the increased intensity or the pounding of the climb, descend, repeat of my day, I don't really know and at this point, I don't really care ;-)

So there you have it, my first trail race is in the books and official.

Hope you all had this much fun with whatever you did last!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

May Oh My Oh

Yes, it's the middle of June and yes, I'm just now getting around to the May wrap-up. Sorry, I've been busy! My May summary must start out with a link to the Massive and Awesome IMTX Race Report! I'm now an IronMan and the race report will tell you all about it. The short version is that it was amazing and that I'm totally ready to go again.

I got back on the horse much more quickly this time as compared to my original HIM where I took two months off and almost turned back into a slug! I started swimming almost immediately after I got back from Texas and I've been running quite a bit also.  I've only been on the bike once, but that's about to change as I have several rides planned for this week.

The other thing that I've done since Texas is that I put together my calendar for the remainder of the year.  I've been working on this and thinking about it and I finally have it all laid out.

June 8 - Leg 1 of the Laurel Highlands 50K relay (yes, I know this is already past)
July 28 - Pittsburgh Triathlon (international distance)
September 8 - Rev3 Cedar Point (Half Rev)
October 27 - Marine Corp Marathon

With this schedule in mind, I've been looking for training plan / coaching options. Obviously what I want is something that can be customized for my specific race schedule.  I'm currently testing a couple of options and I will write up some sort of update once I make a decision.

On to the numbers:
Swim: 8.34 miles, 2.4 of which were in IMTX
Bike: 302 miles, 112 of which were in IMTX and
Run: 83 miles, 26.2 of which were IMTX.

Personal Records:
Since May was my first IronMan I had PRs across each sport and the event itself.
IronMan 12:36:00
Swim 2.4 - 1:34:30
Bike 112 - 5:58:51
Run 26.2 - 4:44:39

I don't have any open goals, so it's time for some new ones. I'm really looking forward to Pittsburgh as I think I can take a big chunk of time off of my International Distance PR. My training has not been going as well as I would like, but since I'm starting from such a different position than last year, I think I can slice 15 or 20 minutes off of my time. I'll write up something more specific as it gets closer to race day and I have a better feel for my current fitness.

That's all folks! Thanks for reading and I hope your training and racing are going well.


Friday, June 7, 2013

50K Trail Relay

Last weekend I went for a nice trail run with my son-in-law on a section of the Laurel Highlands Trail.  That run reminded me that the Laurel Highlands Ultra was probably coming up soon, so when we got back to the house after our run I did a quick Google search and sure enough, the race was a week away!

The individual races were closed, they sold out months before, but it looked like the relays were still open!  I was intrigued, so I started calling around to see if I could quickly put together a team for the 50K relay. After a little bit of work, I found two other runners who were willing to take the challenge, so we submitted an application and crossed our fingers.

Oh yeah, our application was accepted!  Special thanks to Rick the race organizer for not telling us to buzz off.  The relays were closed on the web the next morning, so I think we got in based on an oversight and a kind heart. Thanks again Rick!

Regardless, we are now team #518 - Team S.A.C (Sherri, Amyjo, Clark)

I'll post more details on the race in the race report, but here's a brief rundown.  The Laurel Highlands Trail and an AMAZING hiking trail that runs from Ohiopyle to Johnstown, PA, covering a total distance of ~70 miles.  I've hiked every section of the trail at least once and some sections dozens of times. It is well maintained, beautiful and in some sections HILLY. One of the unique aspects of the trail is that it is routed right through the middle of interesting rock mazes and formations instead of around them. It really is one of the most beautiful trails I've had the pleasure of hiking.

The relay is three legs as follows:

Leg 1 - 11.6 miles from Ohioplye to the Jersey Hollow Road crossing.  This leg has over 3,000 feet of elevation gain, half of which comes in one long hill between miles 6.5 and 8.  Actually, nearly all of that elevation gain is packed into the first 8 miles.  This is the leg that I am doing on Saturday!

Leg 2 - 7.7 miles from Jersey Hollow Road to State Route 653.  This leg also has some elevation gain, but nothing like the first leg. Amyjo is running this leg.

Leg 3 - 11.7 miles from State Route 653 to State Route 31. This leg includes the highest point on the trail, at 7 springs, but is mostly small rolling hills without much elevation gain. This leg also crosses County Line Road near the 7 Springs entrance. Sherri is running this leg.

I'm really excited about finally doing this race. It's something that I've wanted to do, but it's just never worked out, until now!

Think of me on Saturday morning at about 8:30, I'll probably be in the middle of a 1.8 mile hill that climbs ~1500 feet from start to finish. I'll be smiling the whole way!


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Massive and Awesome IronMan Texas Race Report

So where to even start?

I guess I’ll start with the truth, which is, simply, that I had such a fantastic day I doubt that I will even begin to do it justice in this race report. Sure there were times during the day where I felt like I was on fire, literally, and there were times where I felt nauseous, and tired and sore, but throughout the day, and in the end, I had the best time ever. So now that I’ve given away the ending, let’s roll this thing all the way back to the very beginning and I’ll get started telling my story.

Well, actually one more detail before the story.  I need to thank the very best wife and IronFan - Cath! Thanks for supporting me in all of this and thanks for spending all day out here in the hot sun cheering me on and taking pictures. I love you the most. Also, thanks to Sarah and Ben and the kids for their cheering as well. Love you guys! Ok, so now the story.

My last days of taper were focused on two details, packing and confirming my nutrition calculations. I have always packed in piles and I saw no reason to treat this trip differently. Right from the start I had a pile for each of swim, bike, run and nutrition. I also had my street clothes pile, which included the things I would need for the vacation portion of this trip.

 My bike packing went smoothly, after a momentary melt-down about the bike case that I borrowed being too big. It was not and everyone at @SouthWestAir was super friendly and helpful regarding the bike.

My nutrition confirmation also involved quite a bit of hand-wringing. I think the stress of the event was starting to really get to me during those last days of taper. Obviously, I’ve been thinking about and practicing my nutrition plan during my training. The wrinkle and the source of stress, was that I had been training in 50 – 70 degree weather and I would be racing in 90+ degree weather. Thus, I wanted to make sure that I would have enough liquids on board to not get dehydrated. Of course the good news with extra liquids was that meant I could plan on fewer solid calories. As is typical for me, I totally over worked the planning on this, but I came away feeling prepared which was comforting.
The flight to Houston was uneventful. TSA opened my bike case, but managed to get everything put back without too much issue. Getting everything and everyone into my daughter’s car proved to be quite the challenge, but we managed.

The first order of business once we arrived at the house was to build my bike and get it to the local shop for a quick check. The guys at West End Bikes were great. They even identified and fixed a couple of problems that were leftover from my training ride crash the week before. I had gone over everything after the crash, but it turns out I missed some important details. No worries though, West End took care of it.

Thursday I drove up to The Woodlands to check-in and walk through the expo. Check-in was quick and efficient and the swag was pretty good.  The expo was kind of underwhelming, but I guess I really had no idea what to expect, so maybe that was just me. I can say for sure that if you can put an M-dot on it, they had it for sale somewhere in there!

Friday started with the on-course swim. This is the first time I’ve actually participated in this type of pre-swim and I found it helpful. The water was darker than my previous open water swims and there was more chop as well. Neither turned out to be an issue, but getting to experience both before the crush of a mass start was a good thing! After the swim I got in a quick ride and run and then I checked my gear into transition. Once this was done, there was nothing left to do but wait!

My transition bags, all layed out before I started to fill them up with my stuff. 

My bike and bags, ready to head out to transition. 

My little corner in transition!

Did I mention that it was Hot!

Saturday morning started nice and early with breakfast and then the drive back up to The Woodlands. Cath and I struggled a bit with traffic and parking, but really it went pretty smoothly. I found my way back to transition, added nutrition to my bike and my run bag and then we started the long walk over to the start. We stopped on the bridge just long enough for me to point out the details of the swim course for Cath so that she could try and take a couple of pictures later.

We waited together in the line for body marking and then I handed off my shoes and shirt and I got into line to get into the water. I was trying to focus all of my mental energy on execution and having fun. I was still in line when the pros went off, so I had a pretty good view. Very exciting!

T-minus 10 minutes and counting! After almost a year of training, the victory lap was about to begin. I managed to get past the choke point at the swim entrance and then I doubled back onto the sidewalk on the lake side of the fence so that I could stretch some more before I got into the water. I remember that they played the national anthem while I was standing there stretching, but the actual timing of it all is a little blurry. I think I finally got into the water at about five minutes to seven. I swam around a bit, tried to relax and clear my head and then I worked my way to where I wanted to start. I was still thinking calm, peaceful thoughts when the cannon went off and my victory lap began. Holy shit, I’m actually doing an IronMan!

I had a couple of goals for the swim – finish and work hard enough to know you’re in a race but not too hard as to burn out early. I was successful on both counts. The swim was crowded, but not in a violent or painful way. I swam up on many people and people swam up on me as well but in my experience it was all handled in a friendly, sorry about that, sort of way that brought with it a sense of common purpose and good feelings. It was nothing like the IM swim horror stories that I had heard. Although I am not a good swimmer, ha, I have always been calm and comfortable in the water. I think the biggest reason for this is my background in whitewater kayaking. Compared to being in a kayak, upside down, in a class IV rapid, the IM swim was calm and peaceful. Of course I ended up at the back of the pack pretty quickly, so I can’t speak to what it was like up front.

Goal Time – 1:30. Actual Time – 1:34:30. A little slower that I would have liked but hey, I’m out of the water and on my way to the bike! Winning.

I didn’t really have a goal for T1 other than just getting it done. I had packed a complete set of bike clothes on the chance that I might want to change, but I decided against it.  There was no particular reason behind that decision and I had ridden plenty of training rides in my tri-suit so I was not worried about it, but it did take a minute or two to actually decide. This turned out to be a mistake from a sunburn standpoint, so next time I will need to take that into account.

I put on my socks, shoes, helmet and gloves and started out to my bike, stopping only for a massive helping of sunscreen, slathered on by a truly helpful volunteer.

Goal Time – None. Actual Time 7:20. About what I expected and I’m ok with that.

I never saw Cath take this picture, even though she was screaming my name and cheering!

I’ve not looked at year over year data or course vs. course data, but I believe that the IMTX bike course is both easy and fast. That’s not to say there are no challenges – there are, but I’m guessing it’s one of the fastest of the Iron distance bike routes, even in 95 degree heat and wind. Probably the biggest challenge is the mental restraint required to hold back during the out section which is almost entirely with the wind. If you can manage this, you set yourself up for a good ride and a good day.  However, if you miss this, well basically, you can totally screw yourself.

I love the quote that an Ironman Triathlon begins at mile 18 of the run. I thought a lot about this both in training and on race day and I think it served me well.  However, it did not stop me from going out too fast on the bike! But seriously, how could I not - I felt good and I was turning in 14 minute splits! Fortunately, I recognized this trap early and I was able to make corrections before I did any serious damage to my day.

The other key to the IMTX bike course, in my mind, is miles 60 – 80. This section of the course is almost straight into the wind and it starts to separate the stronger riders. In this section, I tried to keep under the wind and ride small and aero. I think I was pretty successful, but I still need to crunch the numbers. I can say that my new bike and wheels are THE BOMB! This upwind section would have killed me on my road bike, so I’m super glad that I made the investment.

Generally my ride went well.  I did finally dial back my effort on the out and I settled into a nice manageable pace.  I was taking two bottles at each aid station and using them to fill my front bottle, which was empty by the time I reached nearly every station.  I took a few good sips of straight water and then I used my onboard, concentrate-bottle to replace what I just drank. My concentrate-bottles are Skratch Labs, Secret Drink Mix (SDM) that I mixed at ~6x normal strength.  Between the two bottles, I was able to carry 192 ounces worth of SDM at normal concentration.  I figured this was more than enough to get me through the day, especially since I was also drinking some straight water at each station. In addition to the SDM, I had a few homemade rice cakes.  I tried to eat some of the rice cakes on my way into the aid stations so that I could wash them down with the straight water I was drinking.

This nutrition plan worked out very well. I had not been able to train in anything close to 95 degree weather, so my total hydration needs were a mystery and thus required an educated guess; with any error coming on the over hydrate side.  The sodium balance of SDM works really well for me, so I was not worried about hyponatremia. I drank all of both of my concentrate-bottles during the ride, so I’m happy with the result.

I did have a couple of issues on the bike, but nothing really serious. I started to feel nauseous at about mile 90. I was able to resolve the nausea if I got up out of aero, or if I stopped drinking. I probably could have stopped drinking, or at least slowed down, but since I was not sure, I figured it was safer to ride a mix of aero and not while continuing to drink. One mistake that I made was not driving the final 20ish miles of the bike course. I drove nearly the entire course on Thursday, but I was running late, so I skipped the leg from Tamina Road back into The Woodlands. I don’t know if I would have recognized it on the drive or not, but from mile 100 to 112 I felt like I was making 90 degree turns almost constantly. I was not ready for this and combined with the ongoing nausea issue, I found it mentally draining. Note to self, next time be sure to drive the entire course and be sure to think like a tired biker when you hit mile 90!

One other note about the bike, or more specifically the officials monitoring the bike. From a drafting perspective, there were only ~20 miles of the bike course that mattered: miles 60 through 80. If this were my race to run, I would have had every single bike official out watching that 20 mile stretch and I would have ignored the rest of the course. I can’t remember how many times I was passed by LARGE TRAINS OF WHEEL SUCKING BIKERS in this section, but it was at least five. This was very frustrating. Other than that, I think the officials did a great job.

Goal Time 6:00:00. Actual Time 5:58:51. Under my goal time and also under my HIM bike split doubled. Without the nausea issues, I think I could have taken 10 or more minutes off of this time, so plenty of room for improvement.

I hit the dismount line, walked/ran my bike up over the sidewalk into transition and handed it off to one of the many super-nice volunteers. I walked the rest of the way around, through bag pickup and then towards the changing tent. I stopped to pee, since I really had to go and since I figured that was contributing to my nausea. Then I hit the tent and tried to decide my next move. Again, I had packed a full change of clothes and again, I skipped using them. I changed my shoes, put on my water belt, race belt, visor and sunglasses and I was off. Oh, I also put a swipe of body glide on each side of my chest to prevent chafing during the run. Unfortunately, the body glide had been sitting in the sun all day in my run bag, so when I wiped it across my chest, I ended up applying a much more liberal dose than I expected.

One final note, just like on the bike, I had concentrated bottles of SDM for the run in my run bag. These too sat in the sun all morning and when I finally got back to them, they were super-hot! I should have expected this and packed some ice or something, but I did not, so for the first few miles I had hot orange drink. Yuck. Next time I'll freeze the bottles the night before, duh!

Goal Time None. Actual Time 10:40. I have no freaking clue how I spent 10 minutes and 40 seconds in T2! All I did was change my shoes and pee. Clearly I need to think about that for next time.

I knew that I would start to feel better as soon as I got off of the bike and that is exactly what happened.  The nausea was gone by the time I hit the first aid station. Unfortunately, my heart rate data was also gone! Turns out that body glide is not a good conductor and the excess body glide from my chest melted in the heat and ran down into my heart rate strap, rendering it useless. Whoops, lesson learned. So now I’m doing my first ever marathon, in an IronMan, on a 95 degree day based on RPE, with no independent data/feedback. Yikes!

No worries, I’ll just listen to my body and run at a pace that “feels” right.

So that’s what I did, although I think I also included a pretty big safety factor, since finishing was the real goal. I walked only the aid stations, and then only enough to refill my hand bottle and maybe drink some coke. Otherwise, I ran the rest of the run. I felt good and I was passing people. Actually, I was passing lots of people. What was really satisfying was that on my third lap, I knew that every person I passed was a person I was going to beat! I’m not normally competitive like that, but after almost 12 hours of moving forward, beating people felt pretty darn good.

In the end, I felt good for the entire run and I was even able to increase my pace quite a bit once I hit mile 21.  My split for mile 24 was only three seconds over my split for mile two and my split for miles 21-26 was my fasted five mile split of the day.  I’m really happy about this as I think it points to strong planning and execution.

Notes on the run course – I loved it! The crowd was great, but what really helped me the most was the fact that it was three laps. This made planning and execution much easier. There were no surprises hidden anywhere in the last 16 miles since I had already run them at least once before! I also loved the fact that I got to see my family multiple times during the run, which was really motivating.

Goal Time 4:00 – 4:30 depending on the heat. Actual Time 4:44:39. Not quite where I wanted to be, but pretty darn good regardless. Moving forward I want to see if I am over estimating my abilities when it comes to run goals or if this was a function of the heat and my focus on finishing not finishing fast.

Final Numbers – 12:36:00, 607th overall and 77th age group! Bam!

Right after the finish and still feeling pretty good. 

About 20 minutes later and I'm starting to crash a bit. Nothing major, just needed to chill and get something to eat. 

The Good
Everything! I am so happy with the way the day turned out. I hope I’ve been able to communicate that in this piece. I hit nearly all of my goals, missing only my stretch goal of finishing at or under 12 hours. I really did have a fantastic day. Cath and Sarah and Ben and the kids were great IronFans. They cheered loud during the run and they took pictures and they were there at the finish. Did I mention that I had a great day?

I’m working on another post with a deeper look at the numbers, but I will say here that I passed a shitload of people on the bike and run! Almost 1000, to be exact! Some of this is due to the fact that I came out of the water in 1601st place overall, but mostly it’s due to the strong planning and execution in the ride and run.

The Bad
Not driving the entire bike course. This was a beginner mistake that I will not make again. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have even noticed the turn, turn, turn nature of the last 12 miles anyway. Feeling sick late on the bike was a drag, but somehow I just knew I would feel better as soon as I stood up. Running without HR data was also a drag, but I managed to make it work. I don’t know if I would have been any faster, but I would have more data to crunch for my post-race analysis.

The Ugly
Sunburn. Yup, that’s the only area where I totally failed and I really don’t understand it.  I applied sunscreen myself and I had volunteers apply it several times as well. I knew it would be an issue, but I thought I had it under control. I did not. Next time I will think differently about clothing choices and I will make an even greater effort on the sunscreen front.

So there you have it, I got to hear the magic words, “Clark Mitchell, You Are an IronMan!” I lived to tell about it and I had such a good time I will almost certainly go again.

Oh, and when we got home, Lizzie made an amazing IronCake for us all to celebrate!

How about you? How was your last race? Did you have fun? Will you go again?

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Wanna Go Again?

There's a story in my family, that we tell in the context of taking on something scary or overcoming one's fear of something. The story takes place at a small, local amusement park called Idelwild and it involves our youngest daughter, who was probably 6 at the time.

We all were in line for a ride called Rafter's Run and the line was long. Rafter's Run is a water ride where gravity does most of the work, but it's not really a water slide because you ride in a raft / boat and you don't get wet. Anyway, as we climbed higher, towards the start of the ride our youngest started to get scared. Her fear and protests grew with each new platform until finally, she announced that she was not going to go on the ride, she wanted to walk back down. This of course was not possible since the line was basically single file and there were hundreds of people behind us blocking our retreat.

Slowly we moved forward, reassuring her that the ride would be fun, that she would have a good time and that everything would be ok. Finally it was our turn and somehow we convinced her that she needed to get into the raft and come with us. We probably threatened to leaver her on the platform (that's how we rolled back then) but that's another story.

Anyway, we all loaded up in the raft and we were off. She started screaming pretty much right away - Ahhhhhhh! This continued nearly the entire way to the bottom, until the Ahhhhh suddenly turned into Ahhhh-I-WANT-TO-GO-AGAIN. So we did. And then again, and at least one more time for good measure.

So you're probably thinking what the hell does this story have to do with IronMan? Well, I'll tell you. I sincerely wanted to feel this way about IronMan. I wanted to be freaked out and nervous and scared and anxious and all of that crap. I wanted to put myself out there and scream Ahhhhh! at the top of my lungs, and in the end, I really, really wanted that Ahhhhhh! to turn into Ahhhhh-I-WANT-TO-GO-AGAIN.

And finally it did!

It took a little longer than I expected, I think because of the sunburn (yes it's really THAT bad), but I totally and completely want to go again. 

In the week since IMTX I've been floating, hapless, missing something, I don't know... It's hard to explain, but something's not right.

So I've planned out the rest of this season and I'm working on next as well since the big races fill up so damn fast. Options for next season include IMLP or more likely IMAZ since we have so much family in AZ. I guess the other option is IMTX again, but I'll have to act fast on that one since registration is already open.   

So there it is, I Want To Go Again!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Some of my Favorite Recovery Meals

Exercise has always played an important role in my life and recently it's gotten even more important. I have some specific exercise plans and goals, which I regularly talk about here. However, something that I don't talk about that often is the fact that I exercise to eat. This is one of my guilty pleasures and today I'm going to share a few of my favorite things.

Main Dishes
We made this recently, but added roasted butternut squash - it was simply amazing. The squash added just the right amount of sweet without changing or overpowering the original flavor profile. Of course I think roasted butternut squash makes anything better, so keep that in mind. It would also be great with roasted sweet potatoes if you can't find good squash.

Pasta with Chicken, Lemon and White Wine - A Meal to Take to a Friend

For the vegetarian readers, here is a great salad / main dish that we make all the time.  Yes, I realize that the linked recipe calls for bacon and chicken stock but two quick substitutions and it's a vegetarian dish.  As usual, we always add roasted sweet potatoes to this to make it even better.

Roasted Beet and Kale Salad

These are two "go to" salads that we make whenever we can find good cantaloupes or watermelons. Both have a nice mix of carbs and protein, which make them good for recovery eating. Plus they taste great which is key in my book.

Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad
Watermelon and Feta Salad

I'm a dessert lover, so it only makes sense to include some of my favorite desserts. None of these are really recovery friendly, but since eating is one of the main reasons why I run (and bike and swim) I had to include these.

This torte was oh, so good and it only got better with age, so don't hesitate to make it in advance, if you can keep yourself from digging in early.

Chez Panisse Almond Torte

I am a huge fan of anything that is salty and sweet. I love chocolate covered pretzels and salted caramel anything. I know that blondies are all the rage right now, but these are actually worth calling out. Follow the original recipe and spring for the Maldon sea salt, it's worth it.

Brown Butter Blondies with Sea Salt

If you like chocolate and coffee you will love these. Seriously, like don't make them unless you don't mind eating them all, love them. They are little, crunchy, chewy, chocolate, coffee bites of joy. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Chocolate Dipped Espresso Meringues

That's it folks, this is what I've been eating recently. Hopefully you have had good food on your plate too.


Loving, Learning, Living

You all know that I've been training for about a year now for IronMan Texas. You don't devote a year of your life to a specific goal without actually learning something from the process. This post is me sharing some of the things that I have learned. Enjoy!

My wife is the bomb!
I think all triathletes say this about their significant others (or at least they should). She is tolerant of my training schedule. She is encouraging and pushes me to follow my plan and get in all of my workouts. She attends races and takes pictures and the list just goes on and on. I love you babe! Thanks for everything that you do and that you have done to support me in this crazy sport.

This shit is really easy
Seriously, it's running, biking and swimming, which are all things I learned to do when I was a kid. Nearly anyone can do them. This sport should not be intimidating. You workout, you eat and then you race, how hard can that possibly be? No excuses.

This shit is really hard
Seriously, I spent countless hours (that's bullshit BTW, I counted every damn one of them, I'm just not sharing the total) trying to develop my swim stroke so that I would be more efficient and I still swim like a stone. I also spent hours and hours practicing my race nutrition plan - yes, that means I practiced eating! How great is this sport?! Triathlon is the kind of sport that takes only seconds to learn but a lifetime of work to perfect.

It's much easier to get out of bed if you have a specific goal that you're working towards
I learned this in November and December when I was trying the "just workout when you're motivated to workout" plan, which worked out to be... never.  That was an epic failure and I don't intend to try that again. Set a goal, develop a plan and then follow the plan to completion. Again, not hard, you just have to do it.

Results build motivation, which leads to hard work, which in turn creates results
This is what economists call a virtuous circle and it's a good thing. When you are in this situation, training should be, and usually is easy. You want to get out of bed and see what you can accomplish. There is also something that economists refer to as a vicious circle, which is like this only in reverse. Vicious circles suck are to be avoided at all costs.

4:30 AM is really early
Enough said.

I hate swimming... but I love the results
Oh, the elephant in the room... I hate swimming, always have. That said, swimming is probably the area where I have improved the most (virtuous circle!) so it's something that has been motivational for me this past year. It's also an excellent upper body workout that helps to build long, lean muscles. Plus, it's killed all of my belly fat and nearly all of the dreaded back-fat. Yuck.

Your GPS / heart rate device will fail in the middle of a race
Consider this the "be prepared" tip of this post. If you train exclusivly to heart rate and your GPS/HR monitor dies in the middle of a race (which mine did) you still need to finish the race. Devices are great and I truly believe that if you don't measure it, it did not happen, but you still need to learn / know your body.

Eating AND losing weight is awesome
Again, enough said!

Pin a number on your shirt at least once a year, your body and your brain will thank you!
I probably should have started with this one as it's the one that truly got me into triathlon. You don't know what you're capable of doing until you try. Technically, you don't know where your real limit is until you try and fail, but that's another post all together. Either way, you need to push yourself and grow in order to be happy and engaged in this thing called life. Competing is one way to make that happen and I highly recommend you give it a try.

So that's it kids, that's what I've learned this past year. Hopefully some of my muttering will ring true for you too. Set yourself some goals and then go out and knock them out.